Covid-19 has been a life-changing experience for all of us, but if the pandemic has made you overly anxious, you might be suffering from this mental health condition. Here’s what you need to know about it.
Do you remember this meme that made the rounds on social media at the start of lockdown? The one that simply said: “Your grandparents were called to war, you’re being called to sit on your couch. You can do this.” While it was meant to lift our spirits, no one knew at the time that the world was dealing with one of the greatest long-term threats facing humanity.
More than a year later and with almost four million lives lost, we are a far cry from normal. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused more ‘mass trauma’ on a larger scale than the second world war and the mental health toll of the coronavirus pandemic will last “for many years to come”. This trauma is what some medical professionals are calling post-pandemic stress disorder, a form of Covid-19-induced PTSD. While PPSD is not (yet) a recognized mental health condition, experts strongly believe it should be.
“Over the past year, many people have been exposed to varying degrees of trauma,” psychotherapist Owen O’Kane, who coined the term PPSD, tells Vogue. “The main problem is, it’s been relentless, and this is why I believe post-pandemic stress disorder will explode. At present, this won’t be recognised as a significant problem because we are normalizing the circumstances. However, like all traumas, the impact will show when the pandemic is over.”
What are the signs of post-pandemic stress disorder?
According to O’Kane, symptoms of PPSD are similar to PTSD, and can vary from person to person. These might include increased anxiety, low motivation, feeling hopeless or powerless, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite, feeling numb, being increasingly angry or irritated, negative or catastrophic thinking, withdrawing socially, feelings of struggling to cope and ‘I can’t be bothered with anything’.
“If you previously experienced anxiety or depression, the symptoms may be worse,” he adds. “If you were functioning well before the pandemic and are now experiencing these symptoms, it is likely you are experiencing PPSD.” He advises if these or other symptoms are occurring regularly and ‘bad days’ are starting to outnumber ‘good days’, then it might be best to seek help.
American psychologist Dr Justine Grosso says it is crucial to check in with yourself and become aware of shifts in physiology, emotions, thinking and behaviour because these are the building blocks of good physical and emotional health. Trauma doesn’t just change the mind (beliefs and thinking patterns), but also the brain, nervous system and stress hormones.
Meanwhile, Dr Dan Chisholm, a mental health specialist for the WHO in Copenhagen, Denmark, says: “Covid-19 has had a number of effects on people’s mental health and wellbeing, ranging from worries about becoming infected, or the stress brought about by infection prevention and lockdown, self-isolation and quarantine, or the detrimental effect on mental health associated with lost jobs, income, education or socializing.”
“The cumulative effect of these measures has led to increases in stress and anxiety, as well as depression and loneliness,” he adds. “For many, the symptoms associated with these conditions will diminish as the public health situation improves and restrictions are eased, but for others, the experience of having had Covid-19, or living through the pandemic will have long-lasting effects, in particular for frontline health care workers or bereaved family members.”
Originally published on Vogue.in